In the beginning came the “holiday” blues…

Five month baby bump

Ever since I gave birth to JJ in September 2009 certain things I took for granted before have changed radically and this has led to a major mental gear change. The first instance of this phenomena came as JJ’s first Christmas approached. I remember the Health Visitor’s survey asking “do you still look forward to things?”. I thought about Christmas and my heart sank. The only things really keeping me afloat back then were baby groups at the Surestart Centre, the Library, my NCT get togethers, and the thought of all those lifelines being whipped away for the best part of three weeks (at a time when every day seemed like a year!) was too depressing to contemplate.

Since the beginnings of parenthood I have noticed that days that I used to look forward to the most – Saturdays, Bank Holidays – are now approached with a sense of impending doom.

I’m sure this phenomena is probably understood by about 50% of other parents depending on the personalities of both you and your children, and how much support and adult company you can expect on any normal “day off”. My children tend to be very demanding and expect my constant input into whatever they are doing. Right now, for example, I’m managing to write this whilst ostensibly being very involved in a particularly noisy episode of Raa Raa the Noisy Lion, interspersed with fielding questions and demands to help JJ colour in his toe-nails with a biro. Guess what? Its Bank Holiday Monday and the hubster is having a nice lie-in. Normally a Monday morning involves an early start for me – leaving the house before the children wake and taking my packed breakfast (coffee and a banana) to a little spot I know where I can read, write and contemplate my naval in peace before my work day kicks in.

Since the beginnings of working part time and having a completely re-arranged week, I have found that, when other people are slogging up the wrong side of that weekly hump (Monday and Tuesday) I am at my most productive and those few child-free hours have been invaluable. Thursday is the new Friday because, despite the fact that I know Friday is ‘Mummy Day’, we have places to go, people to meet and things to do.

As this particular Half Term approached I had already decided to cut back a bit on ‘blog hours’, join a couple less linkies, and thereby give myself a bit of a chance at crowbarring in a few different forms of entertainment and relaxation (I’ve so far managed another couple of chapters of my book and the first three episodes of a gripping BBC thriller/drama almost back to back!). But since the beginnings of my blogging journey I have become aware that when I have trouble finding the time and headspace to blog I am left feeling decidedly flat. When you don’t post a new entry for a few days it is sooo noticeable, it almost feels lonely, like an animated conversation has suddenly dried up and you’ve been left alone in a vast empty room. I guess this is why blogging is so addictive.

Yes, since the beginnings of parenthood, my working life has changed and my attitude has adjusted. Blogging has certainly added to the mix! Maybe towards the middle or maybe not til close to the end of this story, will those attitudes slowly revert as life gradually re-aligns itself with ‘normality’.

Linking up to this week’s theme game from The Reading Residence and Red Peffer with this week’s theme of ‘Beginnings’.

 

The Reading Residence

Word of the week: Settled

Settled

Well the dust has now well and truly settled after the big bathroom excavation. Despite the fact that I mentioned that things had returned to normality last week, only now can I see that there was a lot of catch up to do what with a super big house clean, no time to do any batch cooking, and children in a state of excitement and full of the novelty of their shiny new bathtime! The knock on effect of all this madness was that I had very little time to do my normal level of blogging, and whilst I joined in with some of the week’s linkies, I was unable to devote much attention to other people’s posts and offer up a decent amount of comments. Even in such a short space of time it is very noticeable when the traffic to your site drops off and it actually felt a bit lonely!

I was still feeling upset about my stupid oversight in double booking our holiday over the BritMums Live dates but I’m happy to report that I now have a buyer for my ticket and I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I’ll just have to hold out til the next blog fest, blog camp or blog on to meet some of the lovely people I’ve got to know in the blogosphere over the past year.

I managed to write some nice posts and join in a lot more with the community this week and I’ve also cooked a (hidden veg!) lasagne sauce, a curry for myself and the hubster and some chicken, courgette, apple and sweetcorn burgers for the kids (recipe to follow!).

I finally managed to get my cervical smear done and I was prompted to pick up the good book I’m currently reading (Life after Life by Kate Atkinson) as well as think about the little things that I can focus on to make me happy throughout any given week in order to join in with ButWhyMummyWhy’s Love the Little Things linky. I realise that focussing solely on the blogging is not necessarily a healthy thing and I need a bit more balance in the things I do with my precious little ‘me’ time!

I also had another long think about blogging in general – and feel more settled about the fact that I don’t need to push myself over the edge to transform what I already have at this stage. I am enjoying the small writing and photography challenges as well as having a play with post production photo editing now I’ve finally stumbled across PicMonkey! Not having an iPhone or Android I’ve never had access to Instagram so this is like a whole new toy to me!

It does seem like those bloggers who are garnering a lot of attention and award nominations are paying the price of success – it would be amazing to be running a successful linky but I can’t help but wonder just how exhausting and pressurised it must be to read 50+ posts each week and comment on every single one. Kudos to those who do this, they truly do deserve an award!
Maybe when my children are both of school age this kind of challenge will become more appealing but until then I think I’m just going to maintain a steady course at a settled pace and enjoy the journey, happy to let others enjoy the limelight and taking this pressure of constant comparison off myself.

So that’s settled then…

 

The Reading Residence

My Happiness Project: To thine own self be true

to_thine_own_self_be_true

OK so this is it – after reading Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project I have been vaguely aware that when I am doing or thinking certain things I am not doing myself any favours. I think I finally have to acknowledge that starting my own ‘Happiness Project’ (and logging the journey on my blog) is the way forward. It will allow me to work out some key strategies and hopefully it will be a little bit insightful or inspiring to others too.

Today I was reading through some other bloggers’ posts and considering what it is I like about my favourite blogs and it occurred to me that I tend to have about four standard reactions to what I see/read:

  1.  OMG this woman is quite literally a domestic goddess – LET ME SWAP LIVES/BLOGS right NOW!
  2. This is beautiful work but I know that the person writing is not on the same wavelength as me and therefore I may never consider becoming a follower.
  3. I am feeling informed/engaged/entertained/tickled pink, this content has totally hit my wavelength and the person writing clearly doesn’t know how good they are.
  4. I am feeling entertained/tickled but so are about 10,000 other people and I don’t feel like I can engage because my voice is being drowned out by everyone else’s and how can we respect each other when you will never have time to engage with me?

Perhaps it could be said that the whole experience is a bit like dating…

I’m always comparing upwards and perhaps feeling that my blog is not good enough, not pretty enough, too wordy or some other such nonsense, and that my children are not doing worthy enough projects or coming out with cute enough ‘kiddisms’ but today I had a revelation worthy of Gretchen Rubin (who I shall forewith refer to as The Rubemeister) – I do what I do – which is write, in as engaging a manner as I can possibly manage whilst a 19 month old lobs bits of half chewed sandwich down my cleavage.

My home will never be up to show home standards, I will never crochet an elephant (errr, I’m not sure that is one of my goals actually), I will probably never figure out how to whip up a viral frenzy by riffing on my toddler’s toilet habits or start an Etsy business from home, or write a novel or win a MAD Blogging Award (or even get a nomination! Maybe I should ask – you don’t ask you don’t get…) But the Rubemeister is right – sometimes you have to just let go and accept that every single aspiration that ever pops into your head is not necessarily going to ‘take’. Its a grieving process the letting go – a bit like the day you put your favourite pet in a shoebox, buried it under the cherry tree and wrote a (bad) ode to the beautiful kinky tail never to be seen again (sob!) but at least its closure.

It’s also a chance to reassess what it is you actually do do well, what you are good at, the things that you can actually have a stab at as well as an acknowledgement that you actually quite like your higgledy piggledy bookshelves, colourful piles of toys, nutty little boys, organised chaos and eclectic knowledge of film and literature as well as a photographic memory for all 50 US states (don’t ask – seemed like a good idea at the time…)

All this letting go and embracing is actually quite liberating – I urge you to give it a try…oh and if you fancy it, nominate me for Mad Blogging Awards Best New Blog!

mad blog awards

Post Comment Love

Buying time…

time-precious-commodityIf you could have the choice between time and money which would you choose? I’m genuinely interested to know if people without children would go for money because its not until you have children that you realise that time is actually the most valuable resource in the world and, as the song goes, you only need the light when its burning low, only miss the sun when it starts to snow…and ‘spare’ time when you realise you have just signed up for a mammoth 24/7 job for X years (add the number yourself depending on subjective opinion)…

So yes, right now I’ve opted to buy some time and I am genuinely thrilled that I will finally have a few precious hours a week to snatch back a little bit of that precious resource in a couple of months time. I have so many thoughts whizzing about in my head about what I want and need to do –  a lot of short term stuff like cleaning and tidying, but also some long term projects too which I should be able to approach in a methodical way once I know that I have a specific chunk of time in which to work. The most important thing to remember (and place to start) will be getting organised. Specifically, managing and controlling a budget a lot better than I do right now as I will have less money to work with. But also planning to plan if you see what I mean – for example I need to be organised about how I approach present buying throughout the year but in order to do so I need to have a rolling plan in place, I just haven’t had the time to make that plan and therefore the situation remains a haphazard arrangement.

Since reading Time Management for Manic Mums at the beginning of the month I’ve found myself able to act on the ‘think positive’ side of things, but the actual practical steps of striving for a more organised way of living are still alluding me as I have this little voice inside telling me not to start something I can’t finish and I never have the time to finish anything with only a few short evening hours to myself at the best of times.

I have lots of ideas for blog-related projects – or at any rate projects which will be great to feature as blog posts. I am desperate to try my hand at cooking for pleasure – particularly baking. I want to be able to use the lovely new bicycle the hubster got me for my birthday last year and which has since lain dormant in the shed collecting dust. I look forward to being able to visit a few of the many charity shops which my town boasts and browse in peace (I’ve never been interested in spending hundreds of pounds on clothes and often pick up cheap items in places like supermarkets, New Look or H&M but I can imagine that finding a second hand gem for a knock down bargain will be very satisfying!) . I also attempted my first bit of crochet recently but it was late, I was tired and just couldn’t get the hang of the second stage so I intend to find the time to get my head around this too.

I also have a great idea for a linky which I would be excited, if a little nervous, to offer up to my lovely blogging community.

And I have just started wondering about supplementary income and if there is any way I could find something easy and flexible to fit in for a few extra pennies but this one is probably the bottom of the pile right now as there is clearly no real point in buying time just to…make money!

Blogtastic #WoTW

My word of the week for The Reading Residence #WoTW this week is:

blogtastic

I have managed to publish five posts this week (this one being number 6!) which must be a record for me. I also figured out how to schedule a pre-written post and I joined in with five linkys. I realise that this is a pretty modest achievement compared to some but I’m quite pleased that I managed to find the time given that working part time and looking after the kids when I’m not there fills most of my hours!

Its a really nice feeling to get up some kind of momentum and keep running with it and I’ve finally accepted that not every post has to be lengthy, witty or packed with amazing facts and insights (I can save that for every other post *Anne Robinson style wink*). Sometimes its OK to just post a picture or a nice quote or a recipe.

At the same time it helps to feel like part of the blogging community and know that you actually have readers who are interested in what you have to say (and also provide some pretty fab and interesting reading matter themselves).

So that was my blogtastic week – whether I can keep up the momentum next week… who knows?!

"The

Someone help derail my train of thought!!

speeding train

I was going to say that my train of consciousness is being very British at the moment – it really wants to go somewhere but it can’t because there’s too many of the wrong kind of leaves on the line. However, on reflection this is not actually true. For the past two evenings I have put the boys to bed, had a bath and something to eat, settled down to check emails, Facebook and any interesting blog updates intending to then move on to something more productive, but my train has been derailed and gone shooting off on a tangent, visiting random stations that were never meant to be on the schedule.

Before you know it its 10pm and I’m back at my point of origin with nothing to show for my precious three hours of child- (and to be honest, hubster-)free time (he’s been working lates). Last night, for example, I started off with Eeh Bah Mum’s amusing ode to the joys of Soft Play, was impressed by Cleopatra’s descriptions of her home made Lemon cleaning solution and fiery fig chutney, had a quick peek back at Put up With Rain by Lucy Benedict (not her real name!) and then, wanting to know more about her, got sucked into reading back-dated posts and discovered, little by little, more about her life, love of writing, how her and her partner met and got together, her family relationships, depression, suicide attempts, miscarriage, hatred of Disney Princesses, lust for Ed Balls (!) – at which point I realised that I needed to pull the train over to the sidings and take a little breather – I was beginning to feel like I knew more about her than I did about myself.

I then flicked back to Facebook, saw a link to an article in the Huffington Post giving a negative spin on the Russell Brand Paxman interview/New Statesman editorship and went over to see what that was all about. Interesting point of view but Brand is thoroughly defended through the backlash of comments further down the page including one which provided a link to a website which sets out an alternative future for the world contrary to the current regime/paradigm in which we live. I couldn’t resist and had to check out The Venus Project. That was quite time-consuming too and I’m not entirely convinced that they’ve solved all the Earth’s problems and satisfactorily answered a massive list of Frequently Asked Questions.

The train then finally pulled into Twitter-on-sea for a quick upload, I got sucked into some Katie Price c**p (for shame!) before my eye was caught by a link to an article in the Guardian written by the actress Natasha McElhone discussing gender equality (or lack thereof).

By this time the train was on a collision course with a rapidly approaching brick wall and I was beginning to feel extremely frustrated that the things I was reading about were written by people who were actually doing real things (and then writing about them). All I seem to be able to manage is writing about my random musings. I think I need to get a life and I’m not sure that the “I’ve got a 15-month-old”/Work Four Days a Week/ “Do all the Shopping/Organising/Cleaning/Cooking in this house” excuse is going to cut it for much longer. Am I being too hard on myself?

Time to blog…

time to write

I’m not sure if I’m on my on my own here but my mind seems to have been leaping from thought to thought like a demented leprechaun lately. This is not particularly useful when you are trying to compose a blog post. Maybe this is the nature of work/life when you work part time and have a one year old baby and a four year old (both boys so no real downtime there!). It feels like I’m either thinking one thought on one subject at work or completely bamboozled at home by a s**tstorm of demands, requests and random four-year-old type queries (“where do crocodiles sleep, mummy?”). If its not that then I’m trying to figure out why I’ve got that uncomfortable niggling in the back of my mind (eg, “oh! My car insurance was due to be updated today!”, “whoops – just found a cervical smear reminder from 6 months ago”, etc.).

Then there’s the post-bedtime lull during which I’m supposed to let the dust settle and make sense of it all. This is the time when I start reading other people’s blogs searching for reading matter which I can identify with, or examine the various linky blog hops and try to figure out how to crowbar part of my life into one of them. Only last night I finally got to grips with #PoCoLo (“Post, Comment, Love”) at vevivos.com only to post my own link five minutes after the darned thing closed down. I don’t think I’ll ever be organised enough to make that one (just the 48 hour window Vicky?? ;))

The trouble is I was trained as a writer – both academically and journalistically – and, whilst I would in no way ever be able to justify referring to myself as a perfectionist, I do find myself needing to have conceived a post with a beginning, middle and end, some merit as a comment on the news/nature of life/experience as a parent etc, before I put pen to paper (or the online equivalent). I also feel the need to at least attempt to say something that hasn’t been said a million times before (or at least put a slightly different spin on it). This has become nigh on impossible in recent times, hence the great swathes of time that seem to go by between one posting and the next. Maybe this is why I’m so rubbish on Twitter – I can’t summarise a rounded thought in 140-characters – kudos to those who can!

Currently I have several half-conceived ideas on the back burner including: a ponder on the nature of ‘normal’ or acceptable living arrangements in modern day society (ie – the 2.4 kid nuclear family unit/ lone singleton/ lone parent/ lone couple etc. All a bit lonely really!); a different ponder on the joys and woes of anonymity as a writer; and a celebration of the great benefits of ‘being a bit old’.

Losing the muse…On writing

When I was a young teenager I used to love writing so much. I wrote everything from diary entries, to a romance novel, to poetry to a sit-com! My mum was a journalist of sorts and both my mum and dad went to, what was, The London School of Printing (my dad was a graphic artist) so when it came time to decide what to do after school ended I was thoroughly encouraged to apply for a course in journalism at (then) The London College of Printing (now The London College of Communication). I duly applied, was accepted for the interview/testing day and was put through a series of gruelling challenges and an interview which weeded out the less able and was (thrillingly!) accepted onto a two-year Btec HND in periodic journalism.

I enjoyed my time on the course although a lot of what we learned became very quickly obsolete (measuring up a page layout by hand!) just pre-dating the technological revolution (this is back in the early 90s). However out in the real world I found it frustrating and impossible to get the kind of job which I had dreamed of. Technical periodicals were too boring; women’s magazines drove me mad with their recycled material and patronising tone; and I just didn’t consider myself political or intelligent enough for hard news.

In the end I threw in the towel and headed back to full time education, opting for a four year BA in American Literature at Sussex University (American? I hear you ask… well it did include a year Stateside so why not??!). Writing took a distinctly academic turn for me at this point (obviously) and there is a huge gulf between writing off the cuff in a journalistic style and writing planned and cerebral arguments on facets of literature.

I got a little taster of being back in the journalistic saddle round about the turn of the millennium when I got a fabulous opportunity to write and edit the children’s commercial book website The Book Monster which was affiliated to The BookPlace – a site competing with Amazon (on the book front) in the UK. This was a fun and fulfilling highlight of my working life as it also gave me the opportunity to learn some HTML and get an understanding of web structure.

Since that time I have really lost my writing muse as there has been no real outlet until now. With this blog I have begun to enjoy the fact that I can write what I want in any way I choose. I’d like to think that what I have to say is of interest to someone out there but it is quite difficult to gauge in anyway when you get so few comments! I realise that the downside of blogging within any given niche is that your potential audience has literally thousands of other blogs and posts to choose from and this whole social networking is bloody hard work trying to make the magic happen!

Coming back from holiday I have really let it slide for the last week or so as I haven’t been able to find the time or motivation to string a thought together – let alone a thought interesting enough to share with others in an entertaining way!

I’ve just looked through some of my old poetry and wanted to share a bit to find out if I ever really did have a talent for this…To be honest the only one I’m happy to share is this:

Birds of Prey

We drop from the sky and we come in for the kill
we never lose that feeling
the adrenaline, the thrill
the sound of the echoing death cry,
the mixture of the mortal
and immortal so appealing

Our meaning in life,  our purpose, our love,

is not for one another but for our prey
we have the power
and we never need suffer

we haunt by night and we shimmer by day

There isn’t a moment
we don’t feel the wind,
the rain and the moon,
rarely seen through the clouds,
is our brother, unearthly, immortal kin
shining through at last
like a final shroud.

Perhaps this is how it feels to be falling, slowly, deliciously, towards the rocks,
chilling, the speed at which everything changes,
a feeling closer to madness than shock,
omitting the thought that this should be appalling,
like a book omitting its final pages.

Yet we have the power of self preservation, gliding and stalling in frantic turns,
swooping and spiralling with such grace

and we have so little left to learn that our movements will seem like a practiced formation

our fatal blow, a majestic embrace.

Seems I definitely had the muse once…